“We won’t ride the elephant!! Are you serious? We have got to ride the elephant.” That was me the night we landed in Jaipur.
“No. We are not riding the elephant up the fort. God only knows what kind of cruelty these beasts go through to get domesticated. The place of an elephant is in the jungle not on a fort.” My wife said as she finished her dinner.
“Okay, we will take the cab all the way to the gates then. Don’t want to walk besides elephants on my way”. I kind of knew she would never ride the elephant and I was in no mood to trek.
“Cool”, she said as we got up from our table and left for the room to catch a good night’s sleep before the start of an eventful day that began with a trip to the mighty Amber Fort.
Table of Contents:
1. Reaching Amber fort.
2. Jaleb chowk
3. The history of Amber fort
4. The gates of the fort
5. Ganesh Pol
7. Maota Lake and Kesar Keyari Bagh
8. Jai Mahal
8.2. Sheesh Mahal.
9. Chahar Bagh
10. The myth of the Water Supply
11. Bardari Mandir (The Royal Residence)
12. FAQ about Amber fort.
Reaching Amber Fort
We left the hotel sometime around 9 AM, the traffic was dense as we made our way through the pink city. As per our driver the king of Jaipur ordered the city to be painted pink in the honor of the Prince of Wales, who was visiting the city sometime in the 1920s. Pink was the colour of hospitality and hence it was choosen. The prince left as per his itennary but the city kept the colour. To this day, the old city of Jaipur has all its buildings painted in this one shade of pink.
Amber fort is situated on a hill in the town of Amer, which is roughly 11 KMs away from Jaipur near national highway 11C that links Jaipur and Delhi.
There are two ways to reach the fort, one is from the east by walking on the meandering road that climbs up the hill and leads directly into the main entry of the fort which is known as Suraj Pol. You can also ride an elephant up the route as well.
The other way is to drive through the town of Amer, perched with old buildings and filled with by lanes, to reach the western side of the fort. There is a gate there as well known as the Chaand Pol.
Since we were not taking the trek, and my wife had already forbidden the elephant ride, hence our driver took us to the western side.
My school had multiple gates, and irrespective of which gate you entered from, you always ended up in a huge courtyard. The courtyard otherwise laid useless throughout the year except for days a Parade needed to be conducted or some function was to happen. This Amber Fort also had a similar courtyard. It is called the Jaleb Chowk.
Whether you enter through the front or back gates, you end up in this courtyard, which had larger than life written all over it. The courtyard is rectangular in shape, with both the eastern and western entries on two opposite sides. One side had arced corridor and the remaining side had the Palace complex.
In its heyday Jaleb Chowk used to host parades and dignitaries of the kingdom, however now a days is taken over by all kinds of touristy shops. Hawkers selling toys, caps and street jewelry; photographers renting out royal dresses and instant photography service; souvenir shops selling amber fort replicas in glass domes etc. After a lot of pestering by one very enthusiastic photographer who went by the name Asgar, we relented and took this photograph.
History of Amber Fort:
Amber Fort is also known as Amer Fort over the name of the town Amer. It was originally built by Raja Alan Singh of Meena clan. Later on Raja Maan Singh 1 of Kachahas Dynasty took it over and built a brand new fort on the existing foundation. This then went down to his successors who worked on making it what it is today. The royal family used to live here until they faced water shortages, and then they moved to Jaipur and started living in the City Palace. I heard the original palace if called Kadimi Mahal, which lies in a derelict state somewhere within the fort complex itself. Didn’t get to see it though.
Gates of the Fort:
As already, mentioned there are two main gates Suraj and Chand Pol. Suraj Pol is where most tourists who hike or take the elephant ride reach. It is the main entrance where victorious armies returning from battle were received with all the pomp. Delegates from other kingdom, when they visited Amer; also entered through this gate. If you have seen the movie Jodha Akbar, this was the gate from where Akbar’s delegation enters Amer Fort (Amber Fort).
The Kadhai uses in the movie also finds a place in the Amber fort museum. This kadhai was not part of the real history of Amber fort, and was created just for the movie though.
Chand Pol is basically the entry for the people of Amer and worked as an alternate route to the nearby Jaigarh Fort. Back in the days this gate was used by the comonners of the kingdom who resided in the Amer town. Now a days this is the gate that the current royalty that stays in the City Palace uses, as this is the gate that allows for vehicular traffic.
They are a few other gates as well called the Tripolia Pol and Singh Pol, but I didn’t get a chance to check them out.
The second courtyard:
A flight of stairs on the southern side of Jaleb Chowk would lead you up to a second courtyard. This is where you will get to see the Aravali hills surrounding the Amber fort. This place also provides a clear view of the great wall of the fort that circle across to the next hill. There is a view point up there which provides for a great view of the fort. It takes some walking to reach there.
The second courtyard also hosts two magnificent structures. The Ganesh Pol and the Diwan-e-aam.
Lord Ganesh is the god of beginnings in hindu beliefs, hence the gate that leads into the king’s palace is called the Ganesh Pol. The most beautiful gate in the whole complex, this gate is decorated with ornate floral designs and is colored with vegetable dyes. It is one of most sought after spaces in the whole complex for photographes.
The gate felt familiar, something about it I have seen somewhere which I couldn’t recollect back then. Later on after a few days I saw the gate in a bollywood movie Khubsoorat, where the fort was named something else and the protagonist eas tryingto buy it, but seems like it was shot in this fort infront of the Ganesh Pol.
The gate is a building in itself with multiple levels. The top level covered with lattices is called the Suhag Mandir. It has a clear line of sight of Jaleb Chowk. Whenever Jaleb chowk hosted the king’s victorious army or any dignitaries, the women in the palace used to occupy the Suhag Mandir and watch the parade thought the lattices. It hid them from the outsiders (pardah system was huge in those days) while giving them VIP pavilion view of what was going on. One can climb up a few flights of stairs to check out the suhaag mandir from inside.
The hall of public audience is where the king used to hold his court for the commoners. The design is typical Mughal style with open sides, but the arches here had a distinctive Hindu architecture.
The king was very close to the mughals and hence the extensive of red sandstone can be seen in the Diwan-e-Aam complex as red was the favourite color of the mughals. This is quite evident from all other forts and palaces the mughals have made in India. The white stones are local marbles which can be seen being used in most palaces in Rajasthan.
Maota Lake with Kesar Keyari Bagh:
Since we entered through the western gate we hadn’t got a chance to see the Maota Lake whcih lies bang in front of the Suraj Pol (eastern side). Only when we had crossed over through the Ganesh pol, we got a chance to see this lake, while peeping over from one of the boundary walls.
This lake is the reason why the fort is here. This lake was the source of water for the Town and the fort. It also hosts a garden in its banks, which is called Kesar Keyari. Raja Maan Singh 1, yes, the guy who expanded this fort, cultivated saffron in that garden. I have my reservations on the success rate of this ambitious endeavor as weather of Rajasthan is no way suitable for saffron production. Present day people are more conservative and grow local flowering plants here.
Once we crossed the Ganesh Pol, we reached the next courtyard, which houses the Jai Mahal.
Jai Mahal is a complex of three structures; Diwan-e-Khaas, Sheesh Mahal and Jas Mandir.
As the name suggest was the hall of private audience. Intricately built out of sandstone and marble, this place hosts multiple motifs and floral designs everywhere. This is where the king would hold is meetings with his ministers and host state meetings with royalty of other provinces.
There is a flower in particular (conspicuously named ‘Magic Flower’) that all guides were busy explaining to the tourists. Apparently if you cover various parts of it you can spot a scorpion, elephant, so on and so forth. They mentioned some 7 animals, but my mortal eyes could only see a lame flower with two butterflies hovering over it. Here is a picture of it. Go figure.
Thought long way from it’s prime, this place reeks of it glorious past. The mirrors are laid in the most ornate way possible, creating various murals and designs.
Honesty I had this image in my head that the place will have pieces of mirrors pasted on designed surfaces. Kind of like tutti Fruity on an ice cream, but I was completely wrong. The mirrors were cut in precisely the proper dimension to fit into the designs on the wall and the ceiling like puzzle peices. This was not a building; it was a piece of art. I could only imagine the beauty of his place when earthen lamps would be lit and the reflection from the million mirrors made it look like stars twinkling inside the palace.
Jas Mandir is off limits to tourists and one cannot visit this place for some reason. As per people it is where the king used to offer hsi prayers to lord keis
Also known as Sukh Niwas literally meaning the ‘Abode of Joy’, it has a Mughal Style landscaped garden with a fountain in the middle. I was wowed by the sight of the garden. The speck of greenery on the otherwise cobbled courtyard was so refreshing. I can imagine why this place was called Sukh Niwas.
“How did they manage to get water for a fountain?” my wife’s question caught me off guard and brought me back from my fantasy of the kinds of ‘Sukh’ kings could afford.
“It’s a palace of a king. He might have well over 100 people fetching water for him.” I told dismissing the doubt with the simplest of explanation. But the question had ringed a bell in my mind. There has to be a way to get water up the hill into the Fort from Maota Lake. I was intrigued, and being who I am, a lousy frugal tourist, I hadn’t hired a guide, so now I don’t have anyone to ask this question.
Myth of the Water Supply:
I decided to snoop around with my camera pretending to capture some photos; whereas my actual mission was to eavesdrop on guides explaining the process of water supply to some tourists. I figured since this was the first place where water was visible eveyone will have this question.
So after gettng close enough to qualify as creepy to some tourists, I finally overheard someone explaining the process and then with a little help from google, the mystery was solved.
“Know what; I figured out how they pulled in the water”. I returned to my wife overjoyed like a little kid all excited.
“Persian Wheels!” my wife told. I was dumbfounded, how did she know?
“Yes, how did you know?” I asked her. Has she also picked up my skill of eavesdropping within 2 years of marriage?
“It’s written on this board”. She said pointing to a small concrete board. It had a description written down of how water was lifted and circulated around the palace quarters. Wife read that while standing right where she was, while I spent a good 10 minutes snooping around, risking getting slapped.
So basically there are few levels in the palace from ground to the top, each level having its own set of water reservoirs and Persian wheels. The bottom most level utilized manpower and animals to rotate the wheel and lift the water up to level one. There the water flowed through a channel and was picked up by a second set of Persian wheel, which dropped it in level 3. This process continued till water reached the top of the fort. At each level reservoirs where made to collect leftover water which got dropped or was missed by the wheels while turning. Just google Persian wheel, you will know how that thing works.
There was also provision for rain water harvesting in the top levels of the fort. The water was dropped from the top of the palace into pipes those ran through the walls of the King’s and Queens quarters. This water when passed through the pipes collected heat from the walls. This water then reached the fountains and cooled off. This was not just a fountain but acted as a primitive Air Conditioner. That’s some serious engineering.
Bardari Mandir and Residential quarters:
After the Chahar Bagh starts another courtyard having multiple quarters circling it. This is the residential quarters of the king and his queens. The middle of the courtyard was occupied by the Bardari Mandir. It’s a platform without any walls. There are 12 entries in the place, 3 on each side. This place was mesnt for entertainment where performers would performs and the queens can enjoy the same either from there quarters or in person.
There are 12 quarters circling the Bardari Bagh each belonging to each queen of Raja Man Singh. All rooms were insulated and there were no pathways between them. You can reach the quarers either by going through the open courtyard or through a corridor on the first floor followed by stairs that lead into each quarter.
This design made sure when the king would go to the room of a queen, no other queen would know.
“Why? He was the king!”, I exclaimed when I came to know of the story of the secretive passages. “Since when are kings scared of anyone?”
“He was the king, but those were his wife.” my wife told with a smirk on her face.
Yes indeed those were his wife.
That was our trip to Amber Fort. A fort on top of a hillock, providing for breathtaking views of the mighty Aravalis. A fort that gives the right glimpse of the rich heritage of Jaipur, Rajasthan and also India. The amalgamation of both Mughal and Rajput elements showcases how over time two distinct architectural forms can merge to form a beautiful symphony.
Basic Facts of Amber Palace:
Why is Amber Fort famous?
Amber fort is the pride of Jaipur, adorned with the magnificent Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The fort is a testament to the glorious past India has. Loaded with famous land marks like the Sheesh Mahal and Ganesh Pol, this fort is a must visit for anyone planning a trip to Jaipur.
What is the ticket price of Amber Fort?
Ticket Price into Amber Fort is Rs. 100 for Indian nationals and Rs. 500 for foreigners. There is a night entry fee as well which is Rs.100 for both Indian and Foreigners.
Why Amber Fort was built?
Amber (aka Amer) fort was the power centre of Jaipur for a very long time housing the royal residence, a court, a conference hall, guest rooms, parade grounds of the soldiers. The fort served as the main residence of the Jaipur royalty starting from raja Alan Singh of Meena clan, raja Man Singh of Kachahas Dynasty and thereafter his successors.
How do I visit Amber Fort?
Open from 8 am to 5.30 pm during the day. 7 pm to 10 pm. at night Amber fort can be easily reached by car rentals, shared jeeps and busse from Jaipur. One can hike uphill to reach the main gate Suraj Pol, or ride an elephant till there. If you want to ride a cab, shared jeep, own vehicle till the fort gates, then you need to get to Chand Pol, which is the gate meant for vehicular traffic. Please note that you can drive your vehicle till the parking and not inside the fort.
How long does it take to see Amber Fort?
On a leisurely pace around 3 hours are enough for the fort.
Other Attractions & options of food?
Light and sound Show: A show that that happens every evening, showcasing the rich history of the fort and the valour of the Rajputs.
Option of food:
1135AD : A restaurant right inside the Fort.
Cafe Cofee Day : Yes, there is one inside the fort.
Dhabas lined up on route if you are on a budget like me.